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16th Place - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The House at the End of Rosewood Street is very well-written. The descriptions are beautiful, the only problem being an occasional (but only occasional) reliance on clichés. Most of the characters aren't particularly deep (though I believe there is a reason for that; see the spoilered section below), but fairly memorably sketched. The antagonist is vague in terms of motivation, but an enjoyable character. There is a special ambience to this story, a mystery that doesn't try too hard to be scary, and the plot... well, I'd be lying if I said I understood everything that's going on in the plot. Though I have a couple of reservations, I do like it.
As a game, however, it's a mixed experience. It's mostly puzzleless; OK, that's not a problem in a post-Photopia world. But puzzleless IF still needs a hook to keep us going. Photopia itself has the exploration of the science fiction settings and the player's desire to piece together Ally's story; Galatea has a different kind of exploration (the drive to discuss various topics with the title character), and so on. The House at the End of Rosewood Street does not have any kind of exploration. Until the end of the game, you will be doing the same routine of delivering newspapers and carrying out odd jobs for the residents, without finding any new areas or points of interest. A couple of new characters show up, but your interaction with any of the characters is not deep. There is not even a progression in the mood of the game: your dreams get creepier, but the ambience of your daily work stays the same. The repetitive tasks fall somewhere between "soothing" and "boring", for me. I occasionally got the feeling that I would have enjoyed this more as a static fiction story.
Technically, all this is well implemented. Sometimes, it felt like the implementation was a bit sparse, but I didn't run into any "guess the verb" moments.
Then you get to the puzzle - arguably, the only puzzle in the game. Further discussion of it, and of the plot of the game, will be spoilerfied.
(Spoiler - click to show)I am in two minds about the puzzle. I can agree with those reviewers who found it underclued, given that the wrong action will send you back to the start of the game. On the other hand, I like it, because (and what follows is only my interpretation) it requires the player to understand what exactly is going on on Rosewood Street: the PC is in a coma, the other residents are shards of his/her psyche, and the mirror is said to contain your soul. You need to collect all your constituent parts (except for Caius, who is in some way the force keeping you asleep), and only then will you be able to wake up.
And there we have it: another coma dream story, along the lines of Madame Spider's Web. This isn't a particularly new storyline in IF, but apart from the fact that it's been done before, I think it's well done here. I found Elisabeth a bit too obviously the good guy, and, to a lesser extent, Caius a bit too obviously evil, but I can live with that.
There are still many things I don't get (and man, I hate it when readers say they don't get my writings. Mr. Thomét, I apologise): is Caius just another part of you, the one that doesn't want to wake up, or some malignant entity? What exactly is the connection of Lisa to the PC's story? Given their similarity of names, you would expect Elisabeth to be some sort of avatar of Lisa, but if there is a connection, I don't see it.
All in all, not a flawless game, but it does what it does very interestingly, and the writing is high quality. I might require another playthrough to see whether I can make more sense of the story.
That said, the game is enjoyable. There are somewhere around 8 or 9 NPC's of wildly different personalities, some of which don't pop up until later. You converse with everyone while delivering the newspapers.
There is a villain, but it's hard to know their plan. In fact, it's hard to know anything in the game, until the end.
I had trouble reading the newspapers when I played on Frotz on the iPad. The formatting was off. But most people shouldn't have that issue.
Note that the game lasts about a week in-game.
I don't strongly recommend the game, but it's interesting enough that you should check it out.
The ending was a bit of a let-down: I found two endings, but wasn't entirely sure what was going on, and was left uncertain about my characters future.
All in all, I enjoyed this game, and am hopeful of reading other (spoiled) reviews with different impressions of the ending.
The game ending and full plot spoiler below--
(Spoiler - click to show)
Were you satisfied with either ending?
I don't really understand what happened.
A vampire moved onto my street, and forced me to kidnap and murder a young woman at the opening? The vampire seems to be sexually attracted to my character, but I don't understand why, or what he wants from me.
The neighbors were interesting, although limited, they mostly felt real and different from each other.
In the "good"? ending, I gain my soul back from using Elisabeth's mirror--I think--and my character wakes up in the hospital bed post coma. But, I apparently murdered a woman and then failed in suicide, so I'm not sure how good this is.
In the bad ending, I think I wake up as a newly created vampire, and slave to the new neighbor--so, definitely not good.
Any other thoughts? Did I misread those?
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This is version 4 of this page, edited by incobalt on 18 November 2013 at 4:21pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item